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Friday, July 14, 2006

Strategic Voting

Ross Douthat at the American Scene has this interesting post about strategic voting. I do not know whether it is in fact the case that Democratic voters in recent memory have been voting strategically more often than others, as Ross suggests. But it does seem to me that voting strategically is likely to be a mistake most of the time.
The problem is the rational voting paradox. In any election as large as a statewide Senate race, the chance of a single vote mattering is zero. Of course, some economists like to argue that this means that voting is irrational, since it has costs but no benefits. This is obviously wrong. Otherwise rational people vote in droves, so they must be deriving some benefit.
However, that benefit is obviously not the serious possibility of actually influencing electoral outcomes. And this means that it is a mistake to cast one's vote strategically, as if the vote makes a difference. Whatever it is that impels one to vote-- a desire for group membership, a desire to express oneself, the social stigma of not-voting, the categorical imperative-- ought to influence how one votes, too.
In other words-- it is probably not irrational to vote. But for those who do desire to vote, it is worth thinking about why; the answer to that question may affect the question of who.

Posted by Will Baude on July 14, 2006 at 12:06 AM in Law and Politics | Permalink


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